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Introduction to

the Charles Bible T. Fritsch





B. Davie Napier


Leviticus, Numbers

James L. Mays




Edward P. Blair


Judges, Ruth,

I and II Samuel

Eric C. Rust




and II Kings,

and n Chronicles

Robert C. Dentan


Esther, Job

Ezra, Nehemiah,

VaLrnerH. Kelly


Arnold B. Rhodes




Song of Solomon

/. Coert Rylaarsdam



G. Ernest Wright




Howard T. Kuist


Ezekiel, Daniel

Carl G. Howie


Hosea, Joel, Amos,

Obadiah, Jonah

Jacob Af. Myers


Micah, Nahum,


Zephaniah, Haggai,

Zechariah, Malachi

James H. Galley



Suzanne de Dietrich



PaulS. Minear





Donald G. Miller

Floyd V. Filson

Acts of the Apostles

Albert C. Winn


I and II Corinthians Colossians





Kenneth J. Foreman



I and II Thessalon-

ians, I and II Tim-

othy, Titus, Phile-



Hebrews, James,

I and n Peter

John Wick Bowman

I, II, and HI John,

Jude, Revelation

Julian Price Love



Balmer EL Kelly, Editor

DonaldG. Miller

Associate Editors

Arnold B. Rhodes

Dwight M. Chalmers, Editor, John Knox Press




Suzanne de Dietrich

Translated by Donald G. Miller



Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the

Revised Standard Version of The Holy Bible, copyright 1946

and 1952 by Division of Christian Education of the National

Council oftheChurches of Christ in the UnitedStates ofAmerica.

M. E. Bratcher 1961 For any information manner whatsoever address without John Knox written Press, permission Richmond except 9, Virginia. in the

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in

case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Published in Great Britain by SCM Press Ltd., London. Published

simultaneously in Canada by The Ryerson Press, Toronto.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-10454

Printed in the United States of America



The LAYMAN'S BIBLE COMMENTARY is based on the conviction

that the Bible has the Word of good news for the whole world. the case with the Bible itself. But also as with the Bible there is a

unity of purpose and of faith. The purpose is to clarify the situa-

tions and language of the Bible that it may be more and more

umes and many writers, coming from varied backgrounds, as is

LAYMAN'S BIBLE COMMENTARY into a unity. There are many vol-

It is this point of view which binds the separate parts of the

mankind wherever there are ears to hear and hearts to respond

Church for its own life but also to bring God's offer of life to all

property and concern of the Church alone. It is given to the

The Bible is not the property of a special group. It is not even the

fully understood. The faith is that in the Bible there is essentially

one Word, one message of salvation, one gospel. this translation. Where this is the case they have given their

reasons. In the main, no attempt has been made either to justify

the wording of the Revised Standard Version or to compare it

Bible as their basic text. Occasionally they have differed from

with other translations. Holy Spirit are essential to the renewal of life through the Scrip-,

TheLAYMAN'S BIBLE COMMENTARY is designedto be a concise,

non-technical guide for the layman in personal study of his own

Bible. Therefore, no biblical text is printed along with the com-

ment upon it The commentary will have done its work precisely

to the degree in which it moves its readers to take up the Bible for


The writers have used the Revised Standard Version of the

The objective in this commentary is to provide the most help-

ful explanation of fundamental matters in simple, up-to-date

terms. Exhaustive treatment of subjects has not been undertaken.

In our age knowledge of the Bible is perilously low. At the

same time there are signs that many people are longing for help

in getting such knowledge. Knowledge of and about the Bible is,

of tures. course, It is not in the enough. happy The confidence grace of that God the and great the hunger work for of the the

Word is a sign of God's grace already operating within men, and

that the Spirit worksmost wonderfully where the Word is famil-

iarly known,that this commentaryhasbeenwrittenand published.






"Good News"

"The Gospel according to Matthew" the simple title tells us

immediately the Apostlesunderstood that this book their is task concerned of preaching with is "good admirably news," sum- for

such is the meaning of the Greek word translated "Gospel."

This good news concerns Jesus of Nazareth. Theway in which was his word, to lead they men had to seen faith him in Jesus, act Theyhad which accounts recognized for the in singular him the

marized in Acts 10:34-43. It was a question of a testimony, given

by men who had followed Jesus during his earthly ministry and

who had seen him again after his resurrection. They had heard

Messiah announced by the prophets. The aim of their testimony

accent put on his death, on the necessity of this death, and on

stumbling the Resurrection. for the Precisely disciples because themselves, the Crossbad because it been remained a stone "a of

stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles," as Paul said (I ning climax. a presentiment And this opposition of the opposition is not the result of which of an it unfortunate will be the

fancy, for both Matthew and Luke give us from the very begin-

on the horizon; one could even say it stood there from his in-

concourse of circumstances. It is because he is the Holy One of

God that Jesus was rejected by men. Men could not endure this

Presence which judged and condemnedthem.

But without knowing it men thus accomplished the fixed pur-

Gospels. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the Cross stood

Cor. 1:23), the Passion occupies a central place in all of the

pose of God. Everything that happened had been foretold by the

Scriptures. In his own Person, Jesus both announces and inau-

gurates the Kingdom of God. He creates the New Community.

He is the Suffering Servant, of whom the Book of Isaiah speaks,

who dies, the just for the unjust. He is the conqueror of sin and



death- He is the salvation of the nations. This is the commonmes-

sage of all the Gospels. This is what constitutes the good news,

joyous news. 7:1-13 with Matt 15:1-9). Every Jew practiced ritual ablu-

Distinguishing Features of the Gospel According to


The Gospel by Matthew was designed for readers of Jewish

origin. In all probability it was written in Palestine, perhaps in

Galilee, or in Syria, This is to be seen hi a number of special

characteristics as well as in its general orientation.

1. Jewish customs are familiar to those to whom the Gospel is

addressed. These customs are not given the kind of explanation since as Son of Man he announced and incarnated in his own

Person the coming Kingdom, he was Lord of the Sabbath (12:8;

would not arrive on the Sabbath (24:20). On the other hand,

24-25). He exhorted his disciples to pray that the final catastrophe

(9:20; compare Num. 15:38). He paid the Temple tax (17:

abuses. Jesus wore fringes on his clothing as did all pious Jews

respected the Law; he only condemned its deformations and

washed (Matt. 23:5, 27). Matthew is careful to show that Jesus

tions. Heknewwhat aphylacterywas andwhytombswerewhite-

see also 9:14-15); in that he was Son of God, he had the right

not to pay the Temple tax (17:24-26).

Jesus insisted on the fact that those who observed the Law

ought to observe it entire, even to its least commandments (5:

17-20); but to the old Law he opposed a higher law, the law of

the Kingdom, which demanded purity of heart and a love which

reflected that of the Father (5:21-48). Thus this Gospel affirms

simultaneously Jesus' respect for the ancient commandments in

thattheyweregivenbyGod, and his divine liberty as the Sonwho

inaugurated the NewAge.

that Mark sometimes felt himself obliged to give (compare Mark

2. The charges of Jesus against the Pharisees involve two

major points:

They addto the commandments of God "the precepts ofmen,"

and in so doing they are "blind guides, straining out a gnat and

swallowing a camel!" (15:9; 23:24).

They "preach, but do not practice" (23:1-3). The insistence

on putting into practice the word which is heard is one of the



constant themes of this Gospel. For it is precisely this divergence

between "saying" and "doing" which is the snare of "pious" peo-

ple, their real hypocrisy. It was the sense of their own piety as

"practicing" Jews (practicing in the ritual sense) which closed the

Pharisees against the message of Jesus, against all the prophetic

and therefore revolutionary elements of this message. The true

disciple is to be knownby the fact that he "does" the will of God

(6:10; 7:21; 12:49-50; 21:28-31).

3. Matthew makes a constant use of scriptural proofs; this is,

make one might a similar say, the use basis of the of Scriptures. his apologetics. There True, is a all continuity the Gospels be-

tween the old and the new revelation. But Matthew adorns his

Gospel with references which seem sometimes a little forced to

the modern reader. It is without doubt necessary to see here a It is in his royal capacity that he proclaims with a sovereign au-

against whom hostile forces arise from the moment of his birth.

thority the coming of the Kingdom of God and the laws which

whom the nations, represented by the Magi, render homage, and

heir of David and of Abraham. He is the "King of the Jews" to

his Person the destiny of the Elect People. He is the promised

intention and the spirit of it: Jesus revived and accomplished in

rabbinic practice of that time; but above all one must grasp the

govern that Kingdom. It is as King of Israel that he dies on the

cross. It is as King and Judge that he will return at the last day

"on the clouds ofheaven" (24:30; 26:64; see Dan. 7:13-14), and

that, since his resurrection, all power has been given to him "in

heaven and on earth" (28:18). The Old Testament citations are

designed to prove to the reader that everything which happened temporaries; he submitted in silence to accusations and outrages

diseases (8:17); he was misunderstood and rejected by his con-

the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. He has taken on himself our

taken the form of the Servant. He makes his own the destiny of

the the end. sovereign Jesus hand is King, of God but an is on abased his Son King from who the has beginning voluntarily to

had been foreseen, that absolutely nothing is left to chance, that

(Isa. 53:7).

According to the ancient prophecies, the great final gathering

would commence with Israel and afterwards extend to the Gen-

tiles. Matthew is the only onewho cites the words of Jesus which

show that during his earthly ministry he expected to devote him-

self first and exclusively to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel"



(10:5-6; 15:24). It is necessaryto understand that this is a ques-

tion of a priority in time. It is to the Elect People that the call

to repentance and faith must first be addressed; it is from their

midst that Jesus recruits the disciples who will constitute the

nucleus of the newcommunity. To attribute to Matthewanyracial

exclusivism whatsoeverwouldbe completely to distort the picture.

His picture is certainly consistent with history. If Jesus was re-

jected by his own people, it was not without his having done

everything he could to rally them; proof of this are his words,

and you would not!" (23:37), and the 4. Matthew has a distinctive preoccupation which might be

called "ecclesiastical.* Just as Godgave toMosesonMount Sinai

the charter of the Old Covenant the rule of life which should

govern the conduct of the Elect People so Jesus in the Sermon

on the Mount promulgated the charter of the children of the

Kingdom. Matthew alone reports the mandate entrusted to Peter

for the constitution of the new community (16:17-19). Matthew

alone gives the first lineaments of church discipline (18:15-20).

"How often would I

severity of his judgment on Bethsaida and Capernaum (11:

the 20-24). mandate If the to first evangelize mission the of the Gentiles Twelve was was explicitly reserved entrusted for Israel, to

them after the Resurrection, as is made clear by a number of

passages (8: 10-13; 10:18; 22:1-10; 24:14). Here again is fulfilled

49:5-6). the prophecy of Isaiah: the Servant will be "a light to the na-

tions" and his salvation will "reach to the end of the earth" (Isa.

5. At the time when this Gospel was written, the Christian

communities were experiencing persecution. Certain passages

without doubt reflect this situation. The writer was concerned to

fortify the faith of the Christians to remindthem that Jesus had

foreseen these struggles and that he had foreseen the apostasy of

some, the lukewarmness of others (5:11-12; 10:16-23; 24:9-13). The Structure of the Gospel

first" (19:30; 20:16).

with insistence that "many that are first will be last, and the last

The writer of the Gospel has composed his work with singular

be rejected in their turn. For this reason the writer reminds them

What happened to Israel could happen to them also; they could

care. Without doubt the words of Jesus and certain narratives



had already been grouped in the sources which he used. But an

attentive study shows that there is here a more systematic plan

at least in certain of its parts

than is the case with Mark or

Luke. which The each teaching has a precise of Jesus theme, is grouped and in most in some cases "discourses," the narratives of are, in a manner, the "genesis" of the story which

which follow the discourses are a sort of concrete illustration of


Certain commentators have thought it possible to divide the

Gospel into five "books" which would make this Gospel the

"Pentateuch" of the New Testament The present writer hesitates

to go this far. But Matthew in the structure of this Gospel is cer-

tainly influenced by the Old Testament. The first chapters (1:1


runner unfolds who itself prepares before our for eyes. Jesus' There ministry is here (ch. a double 3). Along beginning: with of Jesus. Such phrases are repeatedly found in the Gospel and fore Verses they 9:35-38 were sent introduce out on their what first could mission be called (ch. the 10) second . dis-

first, the birth of Jesus Christ, with his dual origin, both human

and divine (chs. 1 and 2); and second, the coming of the fore-

the latter goes the story of the beginning of Jesus' own ministry


Verse4:23 characterizes in a very general mannertheministry

serve as transitions between the different parts of the story; for

example, the words of 4:23 are found again in 9:35, These chap-

ters, 4:23 9:34, show Jesus mighty in words and in deeds: he

proclaims the Reign of God, and he concretely manifests this

Reign by his healings and his miracles.

the course, second setting and forth third the discourses, instructions the given latter, to occasioned the disciples by be- the

Verse 11:1 is, again, very general. It serves as a hinge between

question of John the Baptist, being centered on the person and

work of John (11:2-19), and being followed by declarations of

Jesus concerning his own mission (11:20-30). The opposition

which this mission incites is illustrated by a series of incidents

which conclude with some severe words of Jesus against the

Pharisees (ch. 12).

The first verses of chapter 13 introduce a fourth discourse of

Jesus, in the form of parables (13:1-52).

The series of stories in 13:53

16:12 has a less definite struc-

ture. It follows the plan of the Gospel by Mark and ends with



the confession of Peter. This confession, in all the Gospels, marks

a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. Beginning from this mo-

ment, Jesus announces to his disciples his approaching end and

tries to prepare them for it

Chapter 18 maybe considered as a "fifth discourse," addressed 21 and 22 tell of the entry into Jerusalem and the discussions

which took place in the Temple between Jesus and the Pharisees.

Chapter 23 is a discourse against the Pharisees, the most vio- the Son of God on the earth, the ultimate victory of God over all

glory. They deal with the final accomplishment of the mission of atives in our time, is that our Gospel was the work of the

Apostle Matthew. This opinion is supported by the testimony of

Bishop Papias in the second century: "Matthew set down in

writing, in the Hebrew language, somewords of the Savior. Each

to the disciples. It groups a series of counsels concerning the life

of the New Community the future Church.

Chapters 19 and 20 follow once more the plan of Mark, but

the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is inserted. Chapters

lent Jesus pronounced. From this moment the rupture between

him and them is complete.

Chapters 24 and 25 prepare the disciples for the final events

the end of the world, the return of the Son of Man in power and

adverse forces. These discourses are at the same time both warn-

ing and promise. The call to "watch" is, as it were, the theme in-

troducing Resurrection the and story the of mission the Passion, command which of takes the Risen up chapters One to his 26

and 27 and ends in chapter 28 with the proclamation of the


Authorship and Date

The traditional view, which still has some convinced represent-

Testament one This translated view, follow however, them the as Greek he runs was translation up able." against rather serious than objections. the original The

shows Gospel that is written behind in our good present Greek, Gospels and the are references written sources, to the Old of

Hebrew. But above all, a close study of the first three Gospels

which one is our GospelbyMark reproduced almost completely

bythe other two, with some abbreviations and changes of style

and another is some collections of words of Jesus, a part ofwhich



are found in both Matthew and Luke. It is difficult to believe

that an Apostle would thus make use of a Gospel like that of

Mark, which is the work of a disciple, not an Apostle, instead of

giving his ownpersonalrecollections. Onthe otherhand, Matthew

himself may have been the originator of one of the collections of

the "words of Jesus" which had already circulated orally in the

Church, His Gospel gives special importance to the teaching of

Jesus, as was seen in the study of its structure.

Jesus It was impressed without itself doubt upon after the the survivors great persecutions of the first byNero Christian and

the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul that the necessity of writing

generation. down the most If, complete as is quite testimonies generally of admitted, the words the and Gospel deeds by of

Mark was written between A.D. 65 and 70, Matthew would have

been written a little later, between A.D. 70 and 80. There can

neverbe absolute certainty about these questions. But is this really

cause for regret?

The biblical writers never attached much importance to the

person of the authors. It was the Church which, later, insisted

of on then* the apostolic authors but origin by of their the content writings The of the Church New nourished Testament. her- In

reality, the Gospels, even as the other writings of the New Testa- or fifty years after the events relating to her Lord his life, his

death, his resurrection. They tell us everything which we, in our be received in faith. Only he who takes seriously the promises of

reading the Gospels there is a testimony to faith which can only Christ, the Son of the living God" (16:16).

such is the tradition, but with personal certitude

"You are the

whenhe can say with Peter not merely by hearsay, not because

walking beside him on the roads of Galilee, will come to the time

God and obeys his commandments will know who Jesus is and,

the Savior of the world. It must always be remembered that in

Pontius Pilate, is indeed the Son of God, the King of Israel, and

turn, should believe that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified under

the faith ofthe Church, which she announced and preached forty

a testimony inspired by the Holy Spirit The Gospels express

self on their teachings; she recognized in them a <4 word of God,"

ment, worked their way into the faith of the Church not because




The Beginnings. Matthew 1:1 4:22

Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ (1:1


John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus (3 : 1-17)

TheTemptationand the Beginning of Jesus' Ministry (4:1-22)

The Proclamation of the Kingdom in

Words and Acts. Matthew 4:23 9:35

The Announcement of the New Age (4:23-25)

The Charter of the NewAge (5:1 7:29)

The Kingdom of God Manifested in Acts (8:1 9:35)

Continuation of the Galilean Ministry:

Four Discourses. Matthew 9:36 16:12

The Mission of the Twelve (9:36 11:1)

Discourse Concerning John the Baptist (11:2-30)

Discussions with the Pharisees (12:1-50) The On the Pharisees Way Toward Judged Jerusalem by Jesus (23:1-39) (19:1 20:34)

Parables of the Kingdom (13:1-52)

TheWay New Conflicts to the Passion. and New Matthew Miracles 16:13 (13:53 23:39

Who Is Jesus? (16:1317:27)

The New Community (18:1-35)

The Triumphal Entry (21:1-22)